Fact Sheet No 4
1. What concerns should I have about the recognition of foreign credentials in Canada when I make plans for study abroad?
Every year, thousands of Canadian students leave the country to participate in educational exchange programs or to pursue undergraduate, graduate, or professional degrees. They acquire valuable skills and knowledge, as well as the enriching experience of living and studying in a new and different environment. When they return to Canada, these students expect that their acquired skills and knowledge will be recognized for purposes of further study or practising a profession.
Unfortunately, many returning Canadian students are disappointed to learn that their credentials (degrees, certificates, or diplomas) obtained abroad are not recognized in Canada by either employers, regulatory bodies, or institutions of higher education. In order to avoid the potential waste of time and money, Canadians contemplating study abroad are strongly advised to obtain guidance on the status and acceptability of their chosen program, institution, and credential prior to making any commitment.
It is common sense for students to ensure that the program or institution they have chosen will meet their educational objectives. Many institutions and programs make claims to meet these objectives when they are not in fact authorized to do so, or their credentials are not recognized as valid. Furthermore, even if a program or institution is recognized in its home country, it is difficult to ascertain whether their courses and/or degrees will be accepted in Canada. Every effort is being made to improve academic and professional mobility and to facilitate the understanding of credentials obtained outside Canada. However, it is not yet possible to guarantee that a degree or other credential obtained abroad will be recognized in Canada. Even so, for many Canadians the advantages of study and training abroad may outweigh these potential problems. Students can and should gather information in advance that will help them make an informed decision.
2. What do I need to know about the procedures for recognition of foreign credentials in Canada?
The rules governing recognition of foreign degrees and programs vary depending on several conditions. If you will be pursuing further education upon your return to Canada, acceptance of foreign degrees and programs is at the discretion of the admissions offices of colleges and universities, and can vary from one institution to another. If you intend to work upon your return, the procedure for recognition of foreign qualifications depends on whether your intended occupation is regulated or non-regulated. For regulated professions, requirements for practice are set in each province by professional licensing and regulatory bodies. For non-regulated professions, acceptance or regulation is at the discretion of the employer. Postsecondary institutions and regulatory bodies are autonomous and make their own decisions regarding acceptance of foreign credentials. Problems can arise because of lack of information about foreign institutions or programs, or because Canadian authorities lack appropriate resources to compare the quality of the credential to a similar one obtained in a Canadian province or territory.
Given the diversity of regulations, and the variations in them from one province or territory to another, you should be aware that it is almost impossible to guarantee that a degree or program will be accepted once you return home to Canada. This fact alone underscores the importance of making an informed choice of program or institution.
3. How can I improve the chances that my education or training from a foreign institution will be accepted once I return home?
Before undertaking an educational program or course of study outside Canada, you should gather as much information as you can to determine the likelihood that your program or degree will be recognized once you return home. There are several ways to do this.
The first step is to find out whether the institution, its programs, and the credentials it offers are officially recognized by the country's competent authorities, since only recognized institutions and programs are assumed to have met standards of quality in the home country. In gathering information about an institution or program, it is important to be aware that official recognition of an institution does not guarantee that all of its constituent programs are officially recognized. For example, university "X" may be reputable in its own country, but it may also offer special programs for students abroad, which are not recognized or credited towards its own degrees.
It is also important to find out if there is an accreditation system. Different countries use different methods of "accreditation," a process leading to official recognition of an educational institution or program. Accreditation of a program or institution signifies that it is part of that country's education system, has met certain specified standards of quality, and is recognized by the competent authority as having met those standards.
In many countries, as in Canada, there is a wide range of institutions, which go by different names and titles, and which use different terminology for courses, programs, and degrees. It is important to verify that the program you want is at the appropriate level.
You should be aware that recognition of a program or institution abroad by the country's competent authorities does not guarantee that Canadian institutions, employers, or regulatory bodies will accept it, but it will help you to make a better choice of institutions or programs.
4. How can I verify the status of foreign institutions and programs, and how can I compare the credentials obtained abroad with credentials obtained in a Canadian province or territory?
You can take the following steps to verify the status of the institution or program.
- Contact the competent authority in the country where the institution is located and request information on the status (recognized or unrecognized) of the program and the institution. Normally this is the ministry of education, or the ministry of higher education, or the accreditation body. You can also contact us for more information.
- Request information on the institution's or program's status by consulting the country's national information centre.
- Contact provincial credential evaluation services in Canada. They can offer an expert opinion on how a degree or program compares to a similar degree or program offered in a Canadian province or territory. Employers, regulatory bodies, and educational institutions frequently consult these services for their expertise in evaluating foreign credentials.
- In the case of a professional program or credential that you expect to use for entry into practice of a profession, consult the relevant regulatory or professional body in Canada (contact CICIC for more information) to find out if there are any formal, mutual recognition standards in place or professional links with specific institutions or programs.
- Consult graduate admissions officers in your university for advice on academic recognition of credentials obtained from your chosen university or college.
- Consult with potential employers in Canada to determine how they would regard the degree obtained abroad and how they would compare it to a similar credential obtained in a Canadian province or territory.
5. Will I be able to obtain recognition for short-term study abroad, as opposed to a longer-term, full-degree course of study?
There are many student exchange programs for Canadians. Some focus on language study and cultural immersion, while others are intended for specialists in a particular field. Still others, such as those offered by Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, provide internship experiences abroad.
Many Canadian students take advantage of the opportunities provided by these programs because most allow students to attend a university or college abroad for a limited time while pursuing a degree from a Canadian institution. Time spent abroad on an exchange program is credited to degree requirements according to the specific conditions of the exchange program.
6. What about distance learning, franchised, or transnational courses of study or programs offered by foreign institutions in Canada?
Many foreign universities and colleges offer distance learning programs outside the country in which they are located, usually by correspondence or electronically. Canadian students may find such offerings attractive for a variety of reasons (lower cost, greater flexibility of schedule, etc.).
As underscored in question 1 above, Canadians contemplating study abroad are strongly advised to obtain guidance on the status and acceptability of their chosen institution, program, and credential before making any commitment, in order to avoid a potential waste of time and money: it is common sense to ensure that the program or institution you have chosen will meet your educational or professional objectives. Even if a program or institution is recognized in its home country, you must ascertain whether its courses and/or degrees will be accepted in Canada.
7. How can I learn more about foreign universities and colleges, the programs offered, and admission requirements?
There are many sources of information about academic and professional programs outside Canada.
- National Information Centres. In many countries, a central governmental or non-governmental organization is responsible for providing information about postsecondary educational institutions and programs of academic and professional study. You can write directly to the information centre and request general information regarding universities and colleges and the admission of foreign students. The national information centres do not have the authority or expertise, however, to provide information about how their country's educational and professional credentials compare to similar credentials in Canada, or whether they will be recognized by employers, educational institutions, or professional regulatory bodies.
- World Wide Web. If you have access to the Internet, you can conduct an electronic search by keyword for specific institutions and programs, which will likely take you to a home page containing much of the information found in the institution's calendar. Internet sources of information are not always reliable, however; in particular, you may not know if a listed institution is officially recognized or accredited, nor can you use Internet information to determine whether the institution's degrees or programs will be recognized in Canada.
- Embassies and consulates . For those countries with diplomatic representation in Canada, their embassies in Ottawa, as well as their consulates in some of Canada's larger cities, offer information about their postsecondary educational institutions, although they cannot determine for you whether the degree or program is comparable to a Canadian one. Contact information for the central diplomatic mission of all countries having such missions in Canada is contained in the on-line Directory of Diplomatic Representatives in Canada. If a country does not have a diplomatic mission in Canada, the contact information for the mission in the USA is given.
- University and college calendars . These are the best sources of information about courses and programs offered by specific institutions. Calendars usually provide information about programs of study, entrance requirements, student services, housing, tuition fees and other costs, scholarships, language requirements, visa requirements, and a variety of other subjects of interest to prospective students from Canada. You can obtain calendars by writing directly to the university's or college's office of admissions. Your own university or college library may have calendars from selected institutions. You should be aware that the information provided by the institution's calendar is not in any way sufficient to determine the quality of the program or the institution, or whether the credential will be recognized in Canada.
- Your university or college . Many Canadian universities and colleges operate exchange programs with individual universities and colleges abroad. Your department or faculty office can direct you to sources of information about these programs.
8. How do I find out which are the best universities abroad?
Most countries do not have a formal ranking system for their postsecondary institutions or programs. By following the steps indicated in Question No. 3, you can determine whether the institution has met certain criteria of quality. You should also consult your college's or university's guidance office, as well as faculty members and professional associations in your field, for advice on institutions abroad.
9. How can I obtain financial support for my studies abroad?
If financial support will be necessary, students should begin making inquiries and applications at least one year before the beginning of their courses.
- Although financial aid for Canadians studying abroad is generally scarce, there are some individual fellowships and scholarships offered on a limited basis by the host institution to foreign students. Information about such sources of financial assistance can be obtained by writing directly to the office of financial aid and awards of the institution you plan to attend. Students may also find sources of financial support for study abroad within their own university or college by contacting their school's office of financial aid and awards.
- Students should also contact their province/territory's ministry of education branch for student assistance; provincially sponsored aid programs may, in some cases, be used for studying abroad.
- The Canada Student Loans Program offers financial assistance through its lending program to Canadian students attending designated institutions. For further information, and to find out whether your chosen institution qualifies, consult the home page of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada at http://www.canlearn.ca/eng/tools/designated/index.shtml.
- Some limited sources of support for Canadians studying abroad are available directly through Canadian institutions. The Foreign Government Awards Program, the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan, and the Organization of American States Fellowships are administered by the International Council for Canadian Studies on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade; Human Resources Development Canada offers fellowship and training programs including the Program for North American Mobility in Higher Education and the Canada-European Community Program for Cooperation in Higher Education and Training.
- Information about funding for study in the United States isavailable in the publication Funding for US Study: A Guide for Internationals, which describes many grants and fellowships, eligibility criteria, and application requirements (available from the Institute of International Education, P.O. Box 371, Annapolis Junction, MD 20701-0371 USA). Information about the Fulbright Program, which supports foreign students in the United States, can be obtained by writing to the Program Officer, Foundation for Educational Exchange between Canada and the United States of America, 350 Albert Street, Suite 2015, Ottawa, ON K1R 1A4.
- Information on funding for students from Quebec studying abroad may be obtained by visiting the Web site of the ministry of education at http://www.afe.gouv.qc.ca/ or by writing to the Ministère de l'Éducation, Aide financière aux études, 1035, rue de La Chevrotière, 13e étage, Québec (Québec) G1R 5A5.
- Additional information about academic exchange and financial aid programs in Canada and abroad can be found at http://www.cicic.ca/389/student-financial-assistance.canada.
10. Once I have completed a foreign program of study, what can I do to facilitate the understanding of my foreign credentials in Canada?
Gather any official documentation you can that explains the content and value of the course or program or the credential, as well as information documenting the status of the institution and the program. Keep all official documentation such as degrees, transcripts, etc., in your dossier so that when you return to Canada you will be able to assist others in understanding your credentials.
Find out whether the foreign institution offers a diploma supplement. A diploma supplement describes in detail the nature, level, context, content, and status of the studies that were pursued and successfully completed. The supplement may be of value in assisting Canadian employers, admissions officers, and regulatory bodies in understanding your qualification obtained abroad. Please note that institutions may not offer a diploma supplement unless one is specifically requested.
11. What can CICIC do for me?
While there is no single mechanism that can guarantee how credentials obtained abroad will be recognized in Canada, CICIC facilitates access to official information about recognition procedures and foreign education systems, and serves as a link for Canadian academic and professional bodies to international organizations and to similar institutions around the world. CICIC also collects and disseminates information on Canadian education systems, and can assist foreign credential evaluation services in their assessment of Canadian credentials.
CICIC strongly encourages you to follow the steps described in this document prior to making a commitment to a course of study offered by a foreign institution. If further information is required, you can contact the CICIC office at the address below.